Mark Van Doren (1894-1972)
Where: Bradford Road
Van Doren was born in Hope, Illinois, and studied at the University of Illinois and then Columbia University, where he earned his doctorate in 1920. He then joined the faculty as a professor of English.
After returning from an academic trip to Europe with Joseph Wood Krutch, Van Doren made his first visit to The Nation, where his brother Carl was working at the time. Van Doren would eventually work there, in addition to teaching, from 1924-1928 and again from 1935-1938. Van Doren also met Dorothy Graffe, whom he would marry in 1922, on his first visit to The Nation.
Van Doren purchased a home in Cornwall after visiting his brother Carl there during the 1920s. It was at his Cornwall home that Van Doren would take sabbaticals and do most of his writing between academic years. Over the course of his career, Van Doren published 36 books, nineteen works of non-fiction; thirteen works of, or about, poetry; three novels; and one collection of short stories. Van Doren won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for his Collected Poems, 1922-1938. Throughout his career Van Doren advocated for liberal education, and for self-education through reading.
In 1941 Van Doren partook in the radio show Invitation to Learning where he and other hosts discussed the works they deemed “great literature.” Van Doren had been teaching a class on “great books” since the early 1920s. A version of this class is still taught at Columbia University, Boston University, and the University of Chicago.
After retiring in 1959 Van Doren became Emeritus faculty at Columbia and moved to Cornwall full time. Van Doren died in Torrington in 1972.
Image from the Collection of the Cornwall Historical Society, gift of the Van Doren Family